Depending on your worldview, political reality shifts.
But consider for a second – this perspective.
On the global scale, we see America as an isolated nation.
In reality, America possesses two qualities which render this assumption baseless.
America is majority Anglo-Saxon; America has been deeply entangled in the foreign affairs of England and the rest of Europe.
The isolationist narrative is deeply flawed and misleading. But it isn’t surprising. America is nation that sees itself as exceptional to the rest of the world. There is only one other country which possesses a similar characteristic – Israel. Both nations, are born out of ideology, not ethnic identity or language. These are conceptual nations, both of which in actuality stole land from indigenous populations. The Europeans, are actually tied to their land historically through language and culture that is distinct. Religion is secondary.
Even the Europeans engaged foreign domination but America replaced them as the unipolar hegemony. We view America and the concept of democracy as somehow special, original and superior. We think of individualism as only possible here. We see capitalism as the only security of human innovation.
But much of this narrative rests on one presumption – the political domination of the international political arena by England and America.
Just because the era of colonialism ended – does not entail the end of colonialism itself.
Since the first balance of power was realized and established by the European order between all powerful nation-states via the Treaty of Westphalia, a change as overtaken the world, due in part to technological and industrial revolutions but more importantly, to policy-decisions by elites to disrupt the tradition of balance of power for the sake of preserving American and British domination over global affairs. This has perpetuated stereotypes of all social groups and nation-states, only enabled by inequality in the global spectrum. This international political reality cannot be separated from the socio-economic miseries within each country in the world. They are all intertwined.
Prosperity and individual happiness have been, in the West, associated with capitalism and democracy. In Europe, while this is true, there is a sense of cultural heritage that preserves and cultivates unity among the population. In America, the population is more polarized – there is less cultural influence on political affairs and more ideological influence in the States.
But if corruption is equally rampant in America, then it is unfair to presume that any nation deserves the position of unipolar hegemony. Unipolar hegemony depends on domination and violations of sovereignty. The British, who attempted this more overtly in the past, faced a similar fate in India as America is currently facing in the Muslim world – brutal and irrational retaliation to a century of arbitrary occupation.
Why is America policing the world? Nobody should be.
But given the reality of politics and the possibility of an emerging threat to balance, nations act both preemptively and directly. Now that technology has enabled nations to communicate more easily, is bipolarity the natural state of politics? For the last three decades, was the Cold War merely warming up?
Whereas the conflict at once was portrayed as capitalism versus communism, is the war really between neoconservatism (imperialism guised with good intent and fear of threat, usually via democratization) versus nationalism (the ambition for sovereignty)?
Realism assumes the intent of domination; and suggests its potentiality. But what if this human quality is a cultural phenomenon more common to the West? Considering democracies prevalence in the West, and the West’s engagement in neoconservative foreign policy, could it be argued that, culturally, the West is more inclined towards domination, whereas, other states are more inclined towards national sovereignty and cultural values and traditions that may not necessarily be majoritarian democracy?
This is the basis of constructivism, a theory of international relations which explains the behavior of states as relative to their cultural orientations. Various institutions of politics are, along this line of thinking, social constructed.
The menace to global peace is neoconservatism. And while at one point communism was seen as the nemesis, it could be argued from the constructivist stance that communism was a response to American and European expansionism into the domains of other dominant powers. Today, the force attempting to resist this is now a loose coalition of Russian expansionism, Chinese assertiveness, Latin American disenchantment, European disintegration, Middle Eastern and African tumult. I argue these all would not exist in a world without an aggressive neoconservative menace.
Either it will be contained, or violence on both ends will rise.
Just like the world organized to contain communism, perhaps now the world is slowly rallying to contain America’s neoconservative trajectory.
Anger has no ideology.
It constantly flip flops between extreme strands of leftist or rightist political orientations.
That’s why often times you will find individuals who are on the fringes of society attacking all those who participate in mainstream politics, no matter their ideology.
Take Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. They promise hand-outs, whether its in government aid, or fascist nepotism. These two individuals represent their opposites – socialism and fascism. Yet both seem allied in their effort to squash mainstream candidates, of whom now only remains Hillary Clinton.
Clinton is seen as a traitor to the common man for her centrist positions. She supports progressivism but does not drift from the American tradition of individualism so far as to abandon the capitalist ideology. Hillary supports progressivism but she does not support the vanguard approach.
Hillary’s weakness lies in foreign policy. But even here, political pundits speak as though Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump would actually act upon their rhetoric. What would Sanders really do to challenge Israel? Would Donald Trump invade North Korea and go to war with Iran?
Hillary is a lapdog to Israel. But so is Donald. Bernie, perhaps not so much. But Bernie’s ideas are old for the avid reader. Socialism failed a long time ago. The problem is deeper than that.
The problem facing America is cultural, not ideological, with certain individuals disenfranchised from the political and economic processes thus leading to a disconnect between America’s domestic and foreign policy. Populism and majoritarian democracy are proving detrimental to America’s constitutional foundations, which initially, were flawed themselves.
The American people don’t need hand outs or false promises from religious or ideological demagogues. The American people do not need wars and invasions to fund their debts. The American people do not need welfare to be sustainable, nor must we envy the hard working rich people. Furthermore, we cannot create social barriers that convince individuals who are poor to look anywhere but to themselves to bring themselves out of poverty. The reality is that, the phenomenon of inequality in America is less economic than people want to admit. It is America’s cultural disenfranchisement of the minorities which has led to social and economic inequality – and this has been secured through populist politics. It won’t work in 2050 when the minority becomes the majority – but even then, populists always have tactics to disrupt political systems.
I don’t think any of these candidates is a true individualist, with each pandering to another popular group of blind followers.
Obama was truly a president of integrity and wisdom – despite the difficulties of engaging foreign politics. I do believe Obama made mistakes, but he also achieved great feats. I only hope that future candidates will realize these truths and step away from depending on false promises and shady foreign alliances in order to secure power and instead, seek the prosperity intended for this country.
In order for that to happen, the system of majoritarian democracy must be dismantled in favor or a proportionate representation system that does not allow mass-minded ideologies to compromise individual rights and freedoms as well as collective necessities.
Furthermore, it will ensure that minorities are dignified and respected. As a result, American foreign policy will shift because it is being influenced by immigrants – not just a group of rich white protestant males.
But what it will prove is that minorities are better preservers of individualism than the so-called Anglo-Saxon, which history has taught us to be the initiator of liberalism, despite centuries of conservative history. Perhaps that is why such a social movement is resisted – better yet suppressed.
In terms of instituting democracy abroad – such a task is hypocritical and ignores the dynamics of each country. What if a dictator is in fact supported by a majority? What if a domestic solution or transition is more viable than foreign intervention? Do these scenarios even matter – should a nation-state ever be involved in another’s domestic affairs? Is not such behavior an act of aggression or war?
With all due respect, it seems that democracy is innately fascist because it depends on mass-populism instead of conviction.
To put the world in perspective then, who is the real hero; and who the villain?
Different theories will be offered; culprits blamed.
But in the end; who is the real menace to global peace?
A young immigrant child in Orlando,
I came to the Far West from the Persian Gulf,,
To the Gulf from the Levant,
and to the Levant from the highlands of Armenia.
Now, here I am,
In the strong hold of modern imperium, America,
Seeking my own freedom,
from the dual extremes of ignorance,
and the societal pressure against solitude.
Music, art and philosophy are my realms of expression,
I offer excellence to you,
and pray for justice.
How could America be expected to promote democracy abroad while not practicing it for its own people?
Sure, there are principles of democracy here and there, perhaps most importantly in executive limits and free elections – but modern oligarchies have corrupted these institutions through socio-economic paralysis of the middle and lower class.
Particularly in the case of minority rights, the U.S. has exhibited non-democratic tendencies. This is more than problematic, considering the majority of the U.S. will be of minority background by 2050.
America is struggling to make a balance between capitalism on one hand and democracy on the other. Democratic movements are bending towards re-enfranchisement of minorities and the middle and lower classes. Can the US’ policies in other parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East but also in Central Asia, Africa and Latin America, be expected to align with democratic movements?
Remember that Karl Marx said he was not a marxist. He saw it as a perversion of his intent. What if so-called capitalist oligarchs in the West are cooperating with authoritarians in other parts of the world to suppress all genuinely democratic movements?
The lack of economic opportunity is related to the absence of equal representation in government in the US and in the Middle East. Immigrants and minorities, religious groups, women and the LBGT community, face discrimination and are underrepresented. Furthermore, they do not receive the same economic welfare from the US government provided to others, particularly minorities and immigrants. To blame this on anything but political underrepresentation is illusory.
The U.S. enables political mobilization – but decades of stagnation has halted progress. Whether or not America is a true democracy is being tested right now. And whether or not other parts of the world can understand the distinction between true democracy and populism, will determine their ability to overcome tyranny.
The purpose of this article is to analyze the strengths, weaknesses as well as the overall implications of five separate research studies on the subject of foreign aid and its relationship to politics development. The general tendency based on the research suggests that foreign aid has a negative relationship with development, that is, the more foreign aid a country receives, the less likely they are to enact the reforms conducive to development. While there are some exceptions. It is argued that countries with effective financial management that receive large sums foreign aid are likely to exhibit stability and at least some levels of development and redistribution.
The body of this paper will be separated into five sections in which I summarize the main points of each article as well as the potential weaknesses of the research. After this segment, I follow up with a section about the theoretical and policy implications of these findings, and what this could mean for the world today, as well as in the future.
In Moss, Peterson and Walle’s article, the hypothesis is that large sustained aid flows fundamentally alter the relationship between citizenry and the government. The financial flow alters the incentive of the recipient government, and may undercut the very principles the aid seeks to promote: ownership, accountability and participation. States that raise a substantial amount of revenue from the international community are less inclined to usher reform or to cultivate public institutions, having a harmful effect on institutional development. The focus of this research is specifically on Sub-Saharan Africa. As the author’s cross-sectional time series indicates, countries that receive higher levels of foreign aid exhibit lower tax shares as percent of their GDP, meaning there is less incentive to invest in and cultivate public institutions when a significant percentage of the GNI is received in foreign aid. In sum, the literature and research suggest a negative relationship between foreign aid and political development. Perhaps the greatest weakness of this research is that it covers only a period of 17 years, making it more difficult to make far-reaching conclusions regarding the data. Furthermore, the authors could control for natural resource endowment as well as cultural relativity by considering the same measurements for non-African states with lower incomes. It would also be interesting to measure the the effect of foreign aid on countries with high levels of income per capita, which could help further contextualize the data on lower income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Svenssons’s research in “Foreign Aid and Rent-Seeking” is rather interesting as it makes strong claims. Among other findings, Svensson argues that donors countries do not discriminate based on corruption levels, which means that foreign aid is given despite how corrupt the recipient may be. Svensson also finds that only in cases where a binding policy commitment is enacted can there be expected to be an increase in public spending. However, the data indicates that in most cases foreign aid perpetuates rent-seeking and reduces public spending. Furthermore, the data suggests that countries with competing social groups are likely to exhibit fluctuations in foreign aid. The research method was rather reliable, in that intervening variables such as infant mortality rate and arms imports so as to isolate the effects of foreign aid from the health and military dynamics of the subject states. Svens son’s control for ethnicity exposed the relative weakness of the coefficients of other variables, such as trade restrictions and protection from the international community. Of the four assumptions listed by the author, two particularly stood out. First, the assumption that that the larger the budget, the more likely a government is going to be corrupt. Perhaps stretching the boundaries of this study outside of Africa might provide a clearer indication of this assumption. What about countries with vast natural resource endowments? Are they less more or less likely to exhibit corruption? The second assumption that stood out was that donors at least partly care about the recipient’s welfare. The author suggests that much of the literature on this subject confirms the statement, however, I find it hard to believe that global hegemonies are more concerned with well-being of their recipients of foreign aid than perhaps the preservation of their own economic assets. Is it not surprising that countries which receive high levels of aid invest less in public institutions? Would this not be at the detriment of the recipient? That countries with tensions between social groups are likely to receive large swaths of foreign aid confirms this notion, in that global hegemonies are likely to provide aid if it secures their interests and prevents the threat of competing forces. How could this be regarded as “caring about the recipient’s welfare?” This leads directly into the next article.
In their article “Aid, Policies & Growth”, the Burns & Dollar suggest foreign aid is often wielded as a tool for global hegemonies pursuing their own strategic interests. In other words, governments may receive aid — but not necessarily their people. Since the vast majority of countries that receive aid are underdeveloped or engulfed in conflict between competing social groups, the authors’ findings and assertions come as no surprise. How could it be assumed that donors care about their recipient’s well-being if the recipient state constantly receiving foreign aid is essentially in the hands of a small, political elite? The research method is rather reliable as it includes a large sample size of 56 developing countries as well as wide-ranging time series covering two decades between 1970-1993. In terms of policy, the authors find that foreign aid has no effect in ensuring policy change, usually due to the donor’s lack of interest in policy-change. Rather, the donor is focused on its strategic interests. The positive outcome of foreign aid has been in the realm of income growth. How is it possible that state policy remains unaffected while incomes rise? Perhaps a common thread among the recipient states is a lack of natural resource endowment, making them more dependent on foreign aid. What could be said about the universality of democratic political development given that incomes rise despite a lack of institutional reform? That the budget for foreign aid is shrinking while policies tend to improve in poor countries, there is reason to believe there is a negative correlation between foreign aid and institutional development.
In their article, Easterly, Revise and Roodman seek to debunk some of the claims made by the previous article. The authors argue that the idea that foreign aid results in positive growth in countries with good financial management presumes that foreign aid causes growth and that countries with good policies should be the target of foreign aid donors. Their belief is that such conclusions were reached due to limited data availability.
The most crucial element of the data is in the time-series. By extending the period of analysis to from 1993 to 1997, the authors reduced confidence in the assertion that foreign aid causes growth. This is a significant finding as it parallels my concerns regarding the contexts of the research method. Furthermore, this study illuminates the dangers of presumptuous research methods in that minor alterations to the study produced completely different results, challenging previous literature.
In his article on the influence of non-tax revenue on political development and regime security, author Kevin Morrison illustrates that revenue accrued by governments from non-taxable revenues like from oil or foreign aid essentially secure regimes and their grasp on power. This in turn reduces the incentive for reform and public investment. The reliability of the data is quite strong, given that the time series stretches from 1973-1999. I wonder still, given that in the previous study where only three years were added therein altering the findings, if perhaps adding a few more years to this study would have the same effect. That 80 countries were tested, a relatively large sample size, is another indication of the strength of this research method. While the authors generally tend to control for the more common variable of ethnicity and natural resource endowment, perhaps controlling for other variables might affect the outcome of the study, variables such as religious homogeneity, security threats, cultural relativity and historical evolution. How do we know that the religious dynamic, or the threat of religious militants, or perhaps the mere cultural differences of a region are not responsible for the level of redistribution and political development within a respective country?
The common thread among these articles is that there is a negative relationship between foreign aid and political development. That is, the more foreign aid a government receives, the less likely it is to implement the changes that foreign aid was intended to induce. For the most part the research methods were rather reliable, however contextualizing the data by measuring it against non-African states, as well as broadening the time-series spectrum, could provided more accurate indications of the relationship between foreign aid and development. While there are some cases of incomes rising as a result of foreign aid, generally, as indicated in “Aid, Policies and Growth”, as the global budget for foreign aid shrinks, better policies continue to blossom in poor countries where foreign aid may have once paralyzed institutional development and public investment. Further studies indicate that rises in growth via income are poor indicators of the positive impact of foreign aid on political development, especially when the research covers a more broad time-series. Perhaps future studies could focus on trying to gather data that covers a wider time range. Furthermore, researchers could create ways to control for the aforementioned variables of religious homogeneity, stability (via the stability index), terrorist threats and cultural relativity.
The implications of these findings are far-reaching. They suggest that the motives of foreign aid donors have been rather inconsistent with their principles, and that they have in fact perpetuated corruption. It is not surprising that global hegemonies seek their own strategic interests. What is more surprising is the threats to international security this dynamic could cause. As donors funnel foreign aid to authoritarian regimes, especially those that govern countries with tensions between social groups, it forces analysts to wonder whether there is a correlation between these provisions, which prop up and support oppressive and divisive regimes, and the rise of insurgent military movements in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries.
Perhaps looking at countries on a case by case could show other country specific qualities such as resource endowment, geography, economics, culture, and history. These are more qualitative in nature, underscoring my emphasis on the presence of prejudgments in the scholarly tradition.
A 3:2 ratio that long prevailed in the overall levels of U.S. aid to Israel and Egypt was applied to the reduction in economic aid ($60 million reduction for Israel and $40 million reduction for Egypt), but Egypt did not receive an increase in military assistance. Thus, Congress reduced ESF aid to Egypt from $815 million in FY1998 to $411 million in FY2008 (Sharp 2015).